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First-year archers to compete at state


SALYERSVILLE – While this is the middle school’s first year for their archery team, three students have been invited to compete at the state level this weekend.

First-year archers, Blake Collinsworth, Chance Gipson and Christian Gambill, all three eighth-graders at Herald Whitaker Middle School, received invitations to compete at the Kentucky National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) State Championship, to be held this Friday and Saturday, March 15 and 16. 

HWMS Archery Coach Johnnie King told the Independent all three of the boys have shown great progress since joining the team at the beginning of the school year and that they were honored to be chosen to compete at the state level.

The three were invited to compete this weekend based on their performance out of the 13th Region competition, held on February 16. Blake Collinsworth won second place overall, out of 74 middle school boy archers who competed at the event.

Overall, the team placed third in the Blackcat Bulls-Eye Classic Tournament and were ranked fifth, overall in the region this season.

“Some of these eighth-graders they’re competing against have been shooting for 4 years, but a lot of mine have been shooting for 4 months,” King explained. “This just makes the dedication and accomplishments of our entire team even more impressive.”

While Coach King is hoping to be able to expand the program to the high school and grade schools, eventually, right now he said he’s happy with the impact it has had for these students this year.

“It’s been very positive,” King said. “This program helps a lot of kids. Some of these students are not in other sports, so it reaches another group of kids. This is a personal sport, so every student competes the same amount. In basketball or baseball or football, you may have some kids sitting on the bench or not getting much game time, but in this, every kid that competes shoots 40 arrows. 

King also explained how archery is a little different than other school-level sports in that it is co-ed, with everyone competing and they take the top four girls and top four boys and then the students that scored the highest until they get their top 12. 

He also noted that if a student has a bad day and shoots poorly, those scores won’t hurt the team since they will be only ranking the top 12 individual archers. 

King called archery a “true sport.”

“Hard work will be talent,” King explained. “I’ll never be able to beat Michael Jordan or LeBron James, no matter how much I practice, but if you practice archery, you will get better.”

He said he had a student shoot a 186 (with 300 being a perfect score) their first time, but shot a 237 at regionals. 

“He’s consistently getting better,” King said. “So, by the time he’s a senior he’ll have a strong 280 – 290.”

While the students are showing marked improvements in the small amount of time they’ve been shooting, King said the competition will still be tough.

“Floyd County and Wolfe County have programs that start in fourth grade, so some of their kids have been shooting for four years,” King said. “There’s an eighth-grade girl in Pulaski who won World in fifth grade, shooting 295 in 2016, and she’ll be going up against our three eighth-graders.”

King is loading up the whole archery team to go to Louisville on Friday and Saturday to support Collinsworth, Gipson and Gambill, and is hoping this is just the first of many opportunities for the team.

“A senior just signed for archery at UPike, but how many others do we have that have missed out on scholarships just because we didn’t have a program that was able to get them noticed by colleges?” King asked. “If we can expand the program like I think we’ll be able to, this will bring opportunities to many of our students.”

He also highlighted the benefits of archery for students beyond just competitions and scholarships.

“Some of these students are backwards, or in special needs classes,” King explained. “This teaches them to focus and to listen. It’s the safest sport besides table tennis.

It’s not a physical sport and you shoot in one direction. There’s no running and sliding and it’s not a contact sport. We teach whistle commands and it’s pretty safe.”

King explained that NASP is endorsed by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Department, with the program starting in 2002. He said it’s in almost every state, now, and roughly 13 countries. 

“It’s just hard financially to get everything you need to start a program, but we were able to get grants to get started,” King said.

The students and King would like to offer a huge thanks to Operation Unite, who offered a grant to HWMS which allowed the team to get their start.  Along with Operation Unite, the team would also like to offer a huge thanks to Magoffin County School Superintendent Scott Helton, Director of Pupil Personnel, Terry Watson, HWMS Principal, Garland Yates, and HWMS Vice Principal, Willie Cole, for their continued involvement and support of this young team.

A huge congratulations to the HWMS Hornet Archery Team and their coach for a wonderful first season, and good luck at state to Blake, Chance and Christian! 


Heather Oney

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